A decade ago, a colleague invited me to collaborate on a project at the site of what was destined to become the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. The site was within Settlers Cabin Park, one of Allegheny County's parks in the southwestern Pittsburgh suburbs near the airport. The land had largely been strip mined for coal and then abandoned until it was purchased by the county for a future park. Since mining ended, the scarred hillsides had naturally reforested, although the streams draining the area were still poisoned by acid mine drainage. Our collaborative project was to evaluate the site for invasive, non-native plants, and to develop a management plan. After we completed our report, I didn't hear anything else about the garden.
Two weeks ago, I delivered a talk about invasive plants to a joint meeting of the Village Garden Club/Garden Club of Allegheny County. In speaking with the garden clubs' members, I asked about the status of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden - who better to know about progress on "my" project? Few of the people with whom I spoke knew much, and I don't think any of the garden club members had ever visited the garden. So, after my talk, I dragged Kali and our friend/host/former employee Rhonda out to the garden to look it over. What follows are images I made there.
|The attractive Visitor Center, used mostly for revenue-generating functions (e.g., weddings, etc.)|
|Friend Rhonda under a pergola|
|Birdhouse in the goldenrod meadow|
|Kali and Rhonda in the goldenrod meadow|
|I liked this image because it looked very impressionistic|
|Backlit tuliptree leaf|
|A "folly" in the forest|
We visited the garden during late afternoon, which illuminated the tops of the trees perfectly to capture autumn's glory.
The most highly developed section of the facility is the Oriental Garden. Its central focus is a huge lily pond surrounded by a paved walkway.
|Kali (left) and Rhonda on a boardwalk near the lily pond|
|Rhonda (left) and Kali on steppingstones crossing the upper end of the lily pond|
The lily pond serves a dual purpose: it is the aesthetic centerpiece of the Oriental Garden, and it is also an ingenious system to treat acid mine drainage in the stream that feeds the pond. The garden received a significant environmental grant to create this treatment system.
At the end of our walk, we arrived at the eponymous "settlers' cabin," which has been lovingly and carefully restored.
We enjoyed a very pleasant late afternoon autumn stroll through the woods and fields, but the garden fells "raw" and has a long way to go before it becomes a real horticultural asset for the Pittsburgh area. Maybe, by the next time that I'm invited to speak ten years hence, I can share more progress.